DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Quicken Loans 500
We have arrived at the penultimate race of the Sprint Cup Series season, as in eight short days we’ll crown a champion. However, there is still plenty left to be decided on the flat track at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday in the Quicken Loans 500.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,600) continues his late-season resurgence. He won last weekend in Texas, and he is on the pole for Sunday’s race. According to NASCAR’s Loop Data, J.J. has a 105.6 Driver Rating, which is second among all drivers at Phoenix since the start of the 2009 season. Only Kevin Harvick ($11,600) has been better during the span. In fact, Happy has four wins over his past five races at PIR, posting a ridiculous Average-Finish Position of 3.4 during the span, leading 782 laps. During the stretch, no one has lead more than 159 laps. Harvick will go off eighth in Sunday’s race.
Carl Edwards ($9,400) has also been a master on the flat track, as he is the only other winning other than Harvick in the past five in Phoenix. Since the start of the 2009 season Cousin Carl has a respectable 92.6 Driver Rating, with a victory in the spring 2013 race. In 22 career starts at the track, he has finished outside of the Top 20 just four times while managed an impressive 12.3 AFP. He’ll start on the outside of the second row Sunday.
Team Penske has been impressive over the years at the Arizona run, with Brad Keselowski ($10,800) posting zero wins, but finishing inside the Top 5 on four of his 12 career occasions. He has led 115 laps at PIR while turning in 10 Top 20 finishes and a 13.9 AFP. Kes will go off 18th, or in the middle of the pack, and will have a chance to work his way up through the field for those valuable Place Differential points. His teammate Joey Logano ($10,600) starts from the 14th spot, as he looks for his first career win at Phoenix. He won on the last flat track stop at New Hampshire and cannot be discounted despite his goose egg in the win column in 13 career starts. He had led a total of 156 laps.
Jeff Gordon ($8,800) is already through the Homestead, but it is his second-to-last career race, so don’t expect him to rest of his laurels. He starts 11th in his Pepsi No. 24 machine, and he has two career wins at the track. Kyle Busch ($10,200) also rates well at PIR, posting a win with a 13.9 AFP in 25 career starts, leading 750 laps which is third-most among all active drives. Rowdy will start in the 10th position.
One guy who hasn’t been able to figure it out on the flat surface in Avondale is Jamie McMurray ($8,400). He has 24 career starts under his belt, but he has never won, finished in the Top 10 just four times and he has stumbled his way to a dismal 20.0 AFP with four DNFs.
Kurt Busch ($9,300) has a 100.0 Driver Rating over the past 13 starts at the track, while Ryan Newman ($7,300) has also been strong on the flat surface. Newman has a won and 18 Top 20 finishes in 26 career starts, so he’ll be a popular driver selection at a lower-tier price.
Lastly, Denny Hamlin ($9,700) starts in the Lucky No. 13 starting spot, and he has a solid 11.6 AFP in 20 career starts at the run, posting Top 10s in half of his starts while leading 441 total laps. He is a decent No. 2 or 3 driver, and he has won once before, too.
ON THE DOWN LOW
You’ll need some cheap driver options to fill out your lineup, but it’s best to avoid Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola ($6,300) Sunday. He has nine career starts at PIR, but it has been a real struggle. He has never posted a Top 10 finish, turning in a poor 18.6 AFP, and he has never turned a lap at the head of the pack. Youngster Austin Dillon ($7,000) has also had a hard time of it in his brief encounters in the desert, posting a 25.7 AFP in three career starts at the flat track.
If you’re looking for a sleeper, Erik Jones ($8,000), subbing for the suspended Matt Kenseth, could be your guy. He practiced and qualified well, and will start in the seventh spot this weekend. He comes with a cheap price tag, but has superior equipment and a strong pit crew.
There is something about Phoenix that seems to agree with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,100), too. He has made five starts at the track, and he has never finished worse than 18th. His girlfriend Danica Patrick ($6,000) hasn’t been as fortunate, posting just one Top 20 finish in six career starts with an awful 28.8 AFP.
Another low-priced target should be Clint Bowyer ($7,100), who has finished inside the Top 20 in half of his 20 career starts at the venue. While he has never won, he has two Top 5s and six Top 10s, and his AFP (18.4) is rather comparable to more heralded drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,700) and Kasey Kahne ($7,900), at a fraction of their price.